Hidden Poison: Machine Unlearning Enables Camouflaged Poisoning Attacks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Jimmy Di, Jack Douglas, Jayadev Acharya, Gautam Kamath, Ayush Sekhari


We introduce camouflaged data poisoning attacks, a new attack vector that arises in the context of machine unlearning and other settings when model retraining may be induced. An adversary first adds a few carefully crafted points to the training dataset such that the impact on the model's predictions is minimal. The adversary subsequently triggers a request to remove a subset of the introduced points at which point the attack is unleashed and the model's predictions are negatively affected. In particular, we consider clean-label targeted attacks (in which the goal is to cause the model to misclassify a specific test point) on datasets including CIFAR-10, Imagenette, and Imagewoof. This attack is realized by constructing camouflage datapoints that mask the effect of a poisoned dataset. We demonstrate efficacy of our attack when unlearning is performed via retraining from scratch, the idealized setting of machine unlearning which other efficient methods attempt to emulate, as well as against the approximate unlearning approach of Graves et al. (2021).